The air in the chart room suddenly became warmer, and thicker somehow. He could smell cooking, but it wasn't from the Searcher. He climbed the few steps of the cabin to go topside. He looked around, but could see nothing at all. Even the pines were too far away to see without binoculars.
The smell became much stronger. It wasn't a pleasant fragrance. It smelled like charred rancid meat. He walked to the end of the left keel of the catamaran, laid on his stomach, and peered into the water. He thought he might have run into something dead and rotting in the water. He could see nothing in the inky depths, but he suddenly felt uneasy within his own skin.
A sudden THUMP behind him, made him twist around toward the back of the boat. With his legs straddling the keel, he faced the threat with both fists clenched in an instinctive gesture to ward off anything that might be coming at him. His stern, alert countenance softened a little as he gazed upon his uninvited guest. There before him perched precariously on the very tip of the keel, was a furry fuchsia purple eyed cat munching on a half peeled banana that he was holding in one front paw .
The cat grinned widely and held the uneaten portion of his banana out toward his befuddled host. Shaking his head slightly to clear his head, the explorer blurted out.
" Where the Hell did you come from?”
There was nowhere that the cat could have come from except the huge expanse of empty ocean. His fur didn't even appear to be wet.
"I wanted to be here, and so I am,” said the cat.
Artemis was completely at a loss. The cat finished his banana, and then swallowed the peel whole. He jumped over onto the platform of the boat, and as he did, the smell of charred rancid meat became overwhelming. The explorer stood on the keel and jumped over to the platform in front of the cat. He turned his head to one side and grimaced at the smell.
“What are you? “
“I am what I am.”
“Great. Whatever you are, you aren't very helpful.”
The cat held out one paw, and the hide bound chart appeared out of nowhere.
"Hey. That's mine!"
Artemis made a lunge for it, as the cat sidestepped swiftly. His feet slipped on the curved keel, and he fell headlong into the water.
Backward and down, Backward and down, he spiralled through time and space, colour and sound, spinning, spinning. Pulsing images and throbbing music swirled around him, bounced off him, entered his bewildered consciousness, and then ... nothing.
He lifted his head cautiously from the prone position he found himself in. Soft light and eddying shadow surrounded him. The distant sound of tinkling came to him. Bells? Chimes?
He put his arms down beside him to push himself up, and realized there was nothing there to push against. No mattress, no bed, no earth ... just air. He appeared to be floating. He patted his torso and shoulders for wounds, but there were none. No pain, no restriction, just confusion.
He felt a sudden compression of air, sound, and smell centred just above him, and then WHOOSH! His midsection compressed and stiffened as the fuchsia cat landed on all fours on his stomach. Too startled for action, the explorer slowly lifted his head and looked right into the animal's plum purple eyes.
"You're not real. Go away."
"How can I go away if I'm not really here? " smirked the cat.
Quick as an instant, he sat up with a lurch and grabbed the feline by its legs. Artemis held the cat at arms length, with the front legs in his right hand, and the back legs in his left hand.
" What is this place? Where is this place?"
He brought the cat forward and angrily shouted directly into its face. The cat went limp and began to fall sideways, pulling its legs out of the man's hands as it went. Before he could grab it, it disappeared.
The explorer stared at the place where the cat had been, and shook his head to clear it. He coiled his body forward onto his hands and knees so that he would be braced for impact, in case the empty space beneath him should fail to hold his weight.
He crawled a few metres and decided he might as well land on his feet if he did fall. He looked around, above and below himself and came to a conclusion that absolutely amazed him. He was no longer on the ocean, he was in it!
In the distance he could see shimmering spires , a strange changing landscape, and a number of entities of some sort moving effortlessly through this unbelievable environment.